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Data Vs Information

Jun 22, 2020 6 min read

The fact cannot be denied that the “data” and “information” are two interrelated words. While they are often used interchangeably, the fact still remains that there lies a subtle difference between the two.

History documented that Sir Francis Bacon was the first to utter the phrase “Knowledge is Power,” and he released this phrase for publishing in 1957. When he uttered this statement, he wasn’t certain about the information system as it has evolved in the technology world today.

However, the phrase “Knowledge is power” remains relevant specifically as it holds much significance in terms of the potentials and capacity that accompanies the transition of insightful information into knowledge.

One would then begin to wonder about the origin of the word “information.” The modern system of technology has evolved as a data-driven institution. This is why it is crucial to find value in data by utilizing it appropriately towards the success of every business.

What is Data?

Regardless of the specificity of the industry, data remains a valuable asset that drives the future of any successful business. It may interest you to note that a vast range of technologies across multiple industries has become solely dependent on data to thrive.

According to the TechDifferences, data is a raw, unrelated, unorganized, and uninterrupted material that is analyzed to derive information. Quite frankly, data is a raw fact. It can be in the form of characters, images, statistics, symbols, numbers, and many more that are collated for analysis. An unanalyzed data is meaningless as it doesn’t provide any value. It only gains direction and purpose after it is subjected to analysis and interpretation towards deriving the much-needed significance.

Data can simply be categorized into two; primary and secondary. While the primary data can be further classified into quantitative and qualitative data, the secondary data can also be sub-grouped into internal and external data.

Regardless of its classification, whether qualitative or quantitative, data is a set of variables that helps to determine outcomes. One other significant component of data is that it exists freely. It doesn’t depend on any other concept for its existence. Unlike information, it only exists because of data, and it is entirely dependent on it.

The measurement of data and information can be done in either bits or bytes. This can be represented using structured or unstructured tables, trees, graphs, and so forth. Data doesn’t hold any significance until it subjected to analysis to meet the specific needs, wants, and purposes.

What is Information?

If an atom is used to represent data, then information can be represented as a matter. Information simply refers to a set of data that has been subjected to analysis. Information refers to processed, structured, and analyzed data. After analyzing the data, it produces meaningful information. Processed data becomes reliable, meaningful, dependable, and useful information.

According to an article on Forbes titled “Actionable Insights: The Missing Link Between Data and Business Value” written by Brent Dykes, information refers to a prepared data that has been processed, aggregated and organized into a human-friendly format that provides more context. The deliveries of information are usually in the form of data visualizations, dashboards, and reports.

Information addresses user’s requirements, giving it the much-needed relevance and significance as it is the product of an interpreted data that delivers logical meanings. The fact remains that information cannot exist without reliance on its building block, which is data. Once data has been converted into information, it eliminates useless details and brings forth its specific relevance, significance, and purpose.

You would then begin to wonder why there is a need to convert data into information. The reason is simple and straightforward. The ultimate purpose is to help businesses and organizations make more informed and better business decisions targeted at achieving successful results.

To gather and process data, organizations utilize the Information Systems (IS), which practically combines procedures, tools, and technologies that assemble and distribute the much-needed information to make better and more informed business decisions.

Data vs. Information: The Differences

Significance

The first noticeable difference between data and information is its significance. The information has significance, whereas data doesn’t have.

As mentioned earlier, data can stand alone without depending on any other concept. Raw data doesn’t have any meaning, and it cannot be utilized anywhere until it is processed to information.

Information, on the other hand, is significant. This is because it is dependent on data, and it provides some meanings. With information, businesses can take the right action and decisions towards their growth, development, and success.

For instance, the costs and selling statistics of a particular eCommerce product when presented raw in a tabular form lacks significance. But, it provides value and meaning when represented within the context of the target customer about their behavior towards purchasing the products. This information brings about the significance and can be utilized to make decisions that will aid the success of that product.

Representation

Data can be visualized structurally, such as the use of tables, data trees, or graphs.

For instance, a tabular form consists of rows and columns. Each row or column represents a specific data entity.

The data graph, on the other hand, is a representation of data using graphs such as a pie chart, bar chart, or line chart. The picture below is an explicit representation of what a data graph looks like.

Information is, however, different in its representation. It is seen as either ideas, thoughts, or languages that are based on the processed data.

Form

Another significant difference between data and information is its form. Data is usually in format. It exists in the form of letters, numbers, characters, or symbols. Apart from that, it can also be available in pictures, audio, and so forth. The raw data doesn’t present any meaning as it is usually not aligned with some context. 

Meanwhile, information usually exists in the form of inferences, ideas, or conclusions based on processed, organized, structured, and analyzed data. For instance, consider the following number:

20081997

The text above is only a data entity and doesn’t present any meaning.

Converting this data to information requires that we keep it in some contexts. Let’s assume in the context of a birthdate- 20/08/1997 or 20th of August, 1997.

You can also interpret the data as a fax number or an account number.

Reliability

In terms of reliability, information supersedes data. Why? This is because the information is always reliable as it conveys usefulness.

Apart from that, information is properly organized, and it can be dedicated to a single context.

Data, on the other hand, is raw and can be provided in a wide range of contexts. With every context, the output is liable to change. Hence, it could be sufficient to assert that information outsmarts data in terms of reliability.

Let’s take a look at the earlier example 20081997

When it is translated to form a birth-date, i.e., 20/08/1997, it provides a direct meaning. This is a clear context and doesn’t need further processing.

But if we choose to consider the number only, then it can be converted to any form as there is a possibility of several meanings. This is because the meaning can change according to the context.

Dependency

Data is dependent when compared to information. Data is usually in a raw format and doesn’t contain anything else. Hence, data doesn’t depend on any form of circumstance or situation. It remains standalone as it is.

However, information entirely depends on data. Without data, there is nothing to be called information. Data is the foundation of any information. It will continue to remain the building block.

If there is no data, then there is no information.

Decision Making

It’s practically impossible to make decisions based on data, while it is possible to make productive decisions based on information.

Decisions making requires that you consider the conditions and circumstances. And this will only be possible if you have information.

Information plays a significant role in decision-making processes. The actions that a person takes is dependent on the information that he/she has gotten. But in the case of data, it is raw and meaningless. So, it is useless in decision making. You cannot make decisions based on raw data, facts, or figures. And if you do, chances are that the decisions will be wrong as you’ll only depend on assumptions.

Data and Information: What Businesses Need Right Now

The business world is faced with intimidation by the sheer volume of data. These data might include sales, supplies, social media, web traffics, emails, and so forth. However, most businesses need to shift their focus on data analytics and insight rather than simply generating and recycling more data and information.

Do you know that you can successfully harness the available data and information and thrive against your competitors? Do you feel your competitors are outranking you in the way they handle their business data?

Before it gets too late, you should roll up your sleeves and set your foot on the right track. Work with experts and use Whatagraph Data Reporting Tool. The analytics and insights derived from using this tool will go a long way in helping you make the right decision for your business. 

Wendy Gooseberry
Written by Wendy Gooseberry

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